“This war was started by Hitler and Stalin and we, ordinary people, did not want to seize your country”.
This battle was named a Ukrainian Stalingrad. The area along the Dnipro River with the center in small Korsun town was occupied by first rate germen forces at the end of 1943. They represented the last hope of Hitler in the war for Ukraine. Two strong soviet Fronts broke through German line from north and south. They met in my native town Zvenyhorodka and took the Germans into strong pocket. 2 and half years had passed since the war started. According to Hitler expectations it supposed to be fast invasion and a great victory but in fact the eastern front became the grave for many German soldiers.
I know the story about Korsun battle since my childhood as my village Stebne is only in 7 kilometers to Zvenyhorodka. I often herded goats near the river together with old ladies and every May 8 they were recolecting severe days of the war. Marfyna Zabudska told that her family hosted two German military men. One of them kept silence but the another was more friendly. He treated children with candies and lemonade. The family eldest daughter was taken for work to Germany. – Our mom always cried and worried for her. The German officer told that he had left his family in Germany and showed their photos. He was not sure whether he would be able to see them again. – This war was started by Hitler and Stalin and we, ordinary people, did not want to attack your country – he said.
When Korsun pocket closed our village appeared to be on the edge of the front. The German announced to the people that the big battle was supposed to be around the village. Women and children had to leave the village and search for safe place in villages and towns nearby. Men had to dag trenches for future battle.
Family of Hanna Ziatyna (8 years old in 1944) was evacuated by Germans to Katerynopil town.
- They transported us by carriage – me, my mom, woman with two kids and an old lady with a goat. They placed us in a hut. Everybody were very hungry and had nothing to eat. Germans gave a pot with soup for kids. However, while the kids were looking for spoons delayed and goat was eating that soup. Kid’s mom shouted at an old lady. We had lived there more than a month untill the battle was finished. I remember when we came back to our village we passed the field there were many broken carts and killed horses. Probably killed people but I remember horses.
My aunt Maria Zabudska who was 7 years old recollects:
- Nazi forced the local people to dug trenches. My father did not want to do it so he made a plan how to escape it and protect our family. He offered to my mother to separate and she must go to Katerynopil town together with my elder brother. He took me and my two years old brother and went to relatives who lived in neighbor village Vilhovec. It was already cold and snowy. We run through the forest, river and boggy places. Sometimes we heard shooting. It was dangerous to stay in house so our relatives took shelter inside deep cellar. There were many people who got shelter there During that severe time people helped much each other. People set on straw near walls. In the middle we cooked potatoes in large metal pot – kazan.We spent more than a month in underground. Our father sometimes returned to our village to watch the house. Once he came back without his coat and in strange boots. As he explained some people had stoped him in the forest, opposing themselves as a partisans and took his belongings. Although he thought they were not partisans but just some criminals.
Soviet army come close and took half of village Vilkhovets. It became dangerous to stay in his cellar as German forces concentrated in forest nearby. Half of the village was under German troops and half under Soviet ones. Father decided to come closer to the soviet side. We passed empty sugar factory, river ravines and hills. I was very scared as there was strong shooting and it seemed bullets flew over our heads. We had no reletives at this part of the village so relayed on local people. In the evening we came to house of an old couple who gave us shelter. We are grateful to them till now. This couple hosted many other people and the whole soviet military staff besides us. There were young soviet soldiers and girls radio-operators. They were very young and positive. Sometimes they went away and then came back sad or happy. I was afraid much becouse we always heard shooting. Sometimes it even seemed that bombs explored right nearby. Everybody helped each other then. I milled grain in millstone, old lady baked bread and father and an old man cut wood. We stayed with them during the entire winter.
Germans started retreating. I saw the victory in the eyes of our radio-operators. At last we could come back to our village Stebne. Soldiers gave me paper bag with sugar and Ukrainian salo. Old lady gave me homemade bread. We were coming back the same road but it was not the same. The road was ruined with ditches and ground holes. Feather we saw a German tank. Spring flowers came from that machine of death. Life continued!
We found our house in bad shape but at least it was not burned down as many other houses on our street. We cleaned dust of the war, met our mom, relatives came and helped us. In the evening we gathered together in the street and told each other how wehad spent severe time of Korsun battle. We were poor but very friendly. Our hero brother Mykhailo came back from the war as Lieutenant with trophy – german motorcycle. I got his ammunition boots which were late used for dating and dancing. Guys and girls came back from Germany. Everybody was happy. People dance and sang. The war was over.